In this second book of the Scarlet and the White Wolf trilogy, Scarlet the pedlar and Liall the bandit find themselves among hostile company aboard a Rshani brigantine headed north through icy waters. Liall has been summoned home to Rshan na Ostre by way of a cryptic message.
Scarlet, after a near-fatal encounter with bounty-hunters seeking Liall's head, recklessly follows Liall into danger. Now the unlikely pair -a slight, honorable Hilurin and a giant northern rogue- are relentlessly pursued over rough seas on a perilous journey for Liall to reclaim his past, but what new dangers will await them in the fabled Land of Night?
The Minh fell before Scarlet with Liall's dagger in his neck, and Scarlet fell back against the ship, pressing his body against the reassuring strength of solid wood. The deck felt slick beneath his feet, and he looked down and saw that his boots were washed with blood. Everywhere he looked he saw visions of madness. Men hacked into each other, their faces twisted into unrecognizable masks of straining fury, as blood sprayed from the wounds of their enemies, bathing all in crimson. He ran.
Suddenly, another Minh warrior loomed before him. The Minh's dark armor blackened the sky, seeming to shut out hope. On Deva danaee shani, Scarlet prayed automatically. He had no more weapons, and the bodies of the dead blocked his escape from all sides. Scarlet knew that he looked on his death.
The Minh raised his axe. Liall, Scarlet thought in profound loss, and then the Minh opened his wide, bearded jaw, and a torrent of blood flowed from it like a red stream.
Scarlet gaped as the Minh fell, revealing Qixa's broad figure standing behind the fallen warrior. The captain locked eyes with Scarlet and shook his head, a small smile on his lips, as if ridiculing himself for the act of saving a worthless lenilyn.
“Get off the deck, Byzan child,” Qixa growled.
Scarlet’s whole body was shaking as he nodded at Qixa, unable even to summon a word of thanks. Qixa turned and barked orders to the crew, and for the moment the battle moved away from them both, giving Scarlet a much-needed moment to breathe. He spied a long-knife on the deck and took it up, and then looked out over the water to the enemy schooner.
The Rshani crew had cut away the last of the grappling ropes, and the schooner lurched away from the brigantine. Even Scarlet, novice that he was, could see that it was only a temporary respite. The schooner was faster and could turn much quicker than the brigantine. She could stalk them for weeks on the water, attacking at any moment of her choosing, picking a little more of the Rshani crew off each time, until there were not enough mariners to beat the enemy crew back, or until the winds failed the Ostre Sul and she became a sitting target.
Scarlet's eyes fastened on the billowing sails of the schooner, and he suddenly wished he had Scaja’s talent of farcasting his Gift. Scaja had spent many nights teaching his son how to cast the withy on something outside of the house that neither of them could see, a piece of wood in the lane, or a fish deep in the pond. Scarlet had always been able to use his Gift on objects or creatures within arm's reach, but to cast across distance required special skill. A fire on the schooner would solve many things, and if the wind was in their favor, might even do the job for them.
Scarlet knew it was useless, and the schooner was pulling further away with every second. Yet, even as he thought of setting a withy to the enemy sails, he felt a tingling in his skin, like a ripple through his veins, and a flush of heat flooding his face. I can do it, he thought.
He had never tried with anything this far away before, but that fact seemed irrelevant. He stared at the sails, his eyes very wide, and thought: fire.